Ready for St. Lawrence night?

San Lorenzo , io lo so perché tanto
di stelle per l’aria tranquilla
arde e cade, perché si gran pianto
nel concavo cielo sfavilla.

[…] E tu, Cielo, dall’alto dei mondi
sereni, infinito, immortale,
oh! d’un pianto di stelle lo inondi
quest’atomo opaco del Male!
X Agosto, Giovanni Pascoli

(Saint Lawrence, I do know why so many
stars in the calm air
burn and fall, why such crying
in the curved sky sparkles.

[…] And you, Heaven, from above the cheerful
worlds, infinite, immortal,
alas, with tears of stars you flood
this opaque atom of Evil!)


Tonight, everybody outside, nose up under the night sky and eyes open. Why?

In Italy, it is a tradition that families, friends and couples sit outside the nights of August 10th and the following nights, trying to see shooting stars. According to the legend it is Saint Lawrence’s tears that cross the sky, and we see them as shooting stars.

This event was first noticed in a.D. 36 and it takes place on the day when the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence is remembered. He was burnt alive on August 10 258 a.D. This is why in ancient times the shoooting stars were associated with his tears, that every year cross the sky to remind everybody of his suffering. The tradition of making a wish when seeing a shoooting star has its origin here: all those who remember Lawrence’s martyrdom looking at his “tears”, will also see their wish come true.

As we all know, though, shooting stars are actually rocks (meteors) that hit the Earth’s atmosphere from space. Meteors crossing our sky in August are the Perseids, debris left behind from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed close to Earth in 1992. They are callled like that because they seem to arrive from the constelletion of Perseus, the mythological founder of the city of Mycenae.
This year, the busiest nights  will be August 12th and August 13th.

So, what shall you all do tonight?
– Find a spot away from light sources (light posts, city lights,…)
– Make yourself comfortable with a chair, pillow and a drink
– Be patient: the best part of the show is supposed to be visible in the early early morning, but already after midnight you should be able to see a lot of shootng stars
– Try to look towards north-east
– Ignore your smartphone. Meteors travel at the speed of 59km/sec, so you do not want to miss one just to check your Faceook notification.

Enjoy the show!


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